Another blow for Salmond – Scottish businesses say No to Independence

Yesterday it was the EC saying “non” to an independent Scotland automatically joining the EU. Today, Scottish business says “no” to the idea of independence.

Yesterday it was the European Commission saying “non” to an independent Scotland automatically joining the EU. Today, it is Scottish business saying “no” to the idea of independence altogether.

Polling carried out by Ipsos Mori Scotland of 251 business decision makers north of the border found 72% felt independence would have a negative impact on Scottish companies with just 13% arguing it would be a positive step forward; 56%, meanwhile, believed independence would worsen the prospects for their own company with just 10% suggesting it would improve prospects for their own firms, and 26% argued it would keep their company’s prospects about the same.

Commenting on the results, Mark Diffley, research director at Ipsos MORI, explained:

“These fears span the perceived negative impact of independence on both the businesses of the senior decision-makers we interviewed and on the Scottish business community more widely.”

With the poll finding 76% of firms had made no preparation at all for independence, Diffley continued:

“It is possible that so few business leaders are actively planning for the prospect of independence because they do not think that the Yes campaign will win the referendum.”

The results are a further blow to Alex Salmond’s ambitions for independence given the perception it now creates that, financially and economically, going it alone would be unlikely to lead to any material economic benefit to Scotland.

In expressing confidence the SNP could still win its cherished referendum in 2014, finance secretary John Swinney responded:

“In September, Jim McColl – one of Scotland’s most successful job-creators – announced that he is set to back a Yes vote.

“Mr McColl understands that independence is the best course of action to move Scotland forward economically – a very different outlook from the flawed and failed politics of austerity that chancellor Osborne continues to impose on the people of Scotland.

“The poll was conducted before this week’s autumn statement, which reinforces the case for Scotland gaining the powers of independence so that we
can chart a better course, and build a strong economy and fair society.”

A spokesperson for the pro-UK Better Together campaign said:

“This poll should not come as a surprise to anyone. How can the separatists possibly expect to build support in the business community when every credible question is dismissed as scaremongering and debate is deliberately stifled amid what more and more people are describing as a culture of fear?

“The UK is the oldest and most successful single market in the world. We sell more goods to England than we do to every other country in the world combined. It is a nonsense to suggest turning our backs on this. It is a nonsense to think that throwing up barriers to trade will make it easier for our businesses to prosper.

The simple fact is that we are better together with the rest of the UK. No amount of bluster from the separatists will change this.

The findings come after the chair of the Better Together campaign, Alistair Darling, raised concerns about the over-reliance of an independent Scotland on North Sea oil revenues.

Echoing fears raised by the Institute for Fiscal Studies last month, Darling told a gathering in Glasgow yesterday:

“I do not argue that Scotland could not go it alone – that’s a silly argument. But we would be rather too dependent, for my liking, on North Sea oil. It’s worth between about 1%-2% of the UK’s GDP, but about 10%-20% of Scotland’s, and the trouble with oil is that it’s a tremendously volatile diminishing asset.

“The Nationalists’ argument is that, in the meantime, we have got all sorts of renewables, but the problem with that is it only works when the wind blows and at the moment it is totally dependent on the UK subsidy to make the sums add up. That’s not a happy position to be in. The decisions about how much is extracted are not taken in Scotland, they’re taken in Texas as much as anywhere else.

“The oil companies decide whether to spend money in the North Sea or in Russia or Nigeria or wherever.”

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